No New Members: FAMU Suspends Intake for Spring 2012

Florida A&M President James H. Ammons’ message to student organizations Tuesday was simple and direct: no new members until this fall.

Or else?

“Any organization in violation of the temporary suspension [new memberships] will be suspended as a campus organization in accordance with university guidelines,” Ammons said at the end of the mandatory safety forum during which officials focused on respect and dignity.

Ammons told hundreds of students, faculty and administrators that membership to the more than 120 organizations would be closed for spring 2012. Organizations, he said, can still function and host events.

“This is applicable to membership intake; the suspension will give us the opportunity to receive recommendations of the anti-hazing committee,” said Ammons at the university-wide safety forum. “I envision every organization will use this time to revise your intake practices.”

Ammons also revealed that the annual Marching “100” summer band camp had been canceled. The university’s vaunted marching band has been suspended since November.

With the temporary suspension of intake, FAMU moves into a new chapter of its response to hazing within student organizations. The university is working to repair its scarred public image in the wake of Marching “100” drum major Robert Champion Jr.’s Nov. 19 death. Facing questions that they did not do enough to combat hazing, administrators have ordered suspensions of students, band activities and the band director.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the circumstances that led to the 26-year-old Champion’s death in Orlando, Fla at the annual Florida Classic football game. Reports have revealed that Champion died after a hazing ritual known as “Crossing Bus ‘C’.” Authorities want to know just what killed him. An autopsy in the days after his death suggested that hazing was involved.

Since then, the university’s response to past hazing allegations within the band has been scrutinized. FAMU had placed band director Julian White on administrative leave pending dismissal and suspended four students. FDLE later asked that the university reverse the decision until investigations continue.

Florida’s Board of Governors last week requested that FAMU to release all documents related to hazing allegations and the university’s response by Feb. 7.

FAMU had mandated the forum, canceled classes to maximize attendance and buffeted students with reminders via email and fliers. Administrators and police officials fielded questions about a wide array of campus-safety topics, including rape, burglary and violent crime.

Student opinion is split: with some agreeing with Ammons’ decision and others opposing it.

“It was good having all the issues thrown out there,” said business administration graduate student Jadira Clark, 22. “He’s doing his job to protect the university and the well-being of the students.”

Another student disagreed. “I feel like they didn’t ask any legitimate organizations,” said a 20-year-old political science student who asked not to be named. “It seems that one organization caused this and others have to pay; I think it will hurt organizations on campus.”

FAMU’s Student Body President and Vice President Breyon Love and Troy Harris believe that student organizations will recover from this temporary action.

“It looks good to know that we are combating hazing,” Harris said after the forum.

Love said, “It’s just one semester; they can still be an active chapter; they can still have their events and then in the fall, they can have the biggest line ever.”

It was the second forum on safety this semester following a two-day session early January featuring attorney Rasheed Ali Cromwell and focusing on the hazing culture within Greek organizations on black campuses.

FAMU administrators had also met with presidents from several chapters of National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations and dance and modeling troupes last week to discuss the possibility of suspending intake this semester.